Light Reading

Comcast's Cohen: Define Internet Fast Lanes

Mari Silbey
5/14/2014
50%
50%

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen is certainly earning his pay these days.

Taking advantage of another forum to state his company's case on the open Internet debate, Cohen spoke at the inaugural MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit Wednesday morning. Covering issues that included paid prioritization, the interconnection market, usage-based billing, and market consolidation, Cohen made it clear that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) believes it is not only following the legal guidelines imposed by US regulators, but also the principles of the government's open Internet policy.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler provoked an immediate and largely negative reaction last month when he proposed letting broadband providers create network "fast lanes" for bandwidth-hogging Internet video companies such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX). But Cohen cautioned that the definition of a fast lane hasn't even been determined yet. (See Edgewater Reanimated by $5M for SDN/NFV.)

"We are not sure we know what paid prioritization, or what a fast lane is. No one's defined that," he said in this morning's conversation with telecom analyst Craig Moffett.

Moffett then clarified that Comcast's current commitment -- under the conditions that it accepted in exchange for approval of its acquisition of NBC Universal -- doesn't take paid prioritization into account at all. Cohen agreed. "Whatever it is," he said, "we're allowed to do it."

While Cohen was definitive about following the letter of the law, he was also careful to emphasize that Comcast isn't trying to get away with anything that goes against the spirit of the open Internet. He pointed out that even if strict Title II regulations were imposed on the broadband market, there would still be nothing to prohibit operators from providing different levels of service to different types of customers, just as they currently do when differentiating between business and residential subscribers. The premise of offering different types of service, in Cohen's view, doesn't violate the open Internet doctrine.

Speculating on Wheeler's upcoming Internet regulatory rulings, Cohen also guessed that the chairman would ultimately decide that paid prioritization deals have to be determined on a case-by-case basis, with "commercially unreasonable" agreements being deemed unlawful under regulatory review.

Neither Moffett nor Cohen spoke in detail about the current battle between Internet service providers and transit providers such as Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) and Cogent Communications Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: CCOI). Transit providers have argued that some ISPs are deliberately allowing peering points to degrade to force transit partners to pay for better service. However, Cohen did say that he believes the cost of transport should be proportionate to actual usage. He added that the right way to manage overall costs is to move to a usage-based billing model for consumers.

Comcast is currently running tests of usage-based billing in several markets, including a pilot in Atlanta that was started late last year. Cohen said that so far the Atlanta trial has had no effect on about 98% of customers. He also argued that if the model is adopted universally in the future, he believes the same trend would hold true, with very few subscribers needing to pay monthly overage fees for exceeding a capacity threshold.

The entire conversation at the MoffettNathanson event comes within the context of both Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and the FCC's plan to consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the subject of open Internet regulations. (See FCC's Wheeler: 'Internet Will Remain an Open Pathway' and In Cable We (Anti)trust.)

Although the rhetoric level is high, there are significant issues being hashed out within the public sphere. The debate continues tomorrow at the next FCC Open Commission Meeting.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/15/2014 | 1:58:40 PM
Re: What am I missing?
It's clear that there's a great deal of short term profitability potential for carriers making sweetheart deals for their own content and for providers. In the long term, a neutral net makes the Internet more desirable and useful and therefore creates more profitability potential for everyone. 
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/15/2014 | 1:18:51 PM
Re: What am I missing?
My take on Cohen's comments is that he's trying to be politically correct at the moment, but still leaving the door open for fast lane charges. On one hand he says he's for open internet but on the other says he's waiting on the FCC rulings and Comcast will be entitlted like every other provider to adopt new pricing,
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/14/2014 | 7:52:05 PM
What am I missing?
I am hugely suspicious on the subject of net neutrality, but Comcast's proposal seems reasonable. Charge everybody based on usage. As long as everybody's charged the same rate -- but not necessarily the same amount -- then usage-based charges are perfectly fair, reasonable, and preserve competition and openness. 
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/14/2014 | 4:49:14 PM
Cohen
"Cohen said that so far the Atlanta trial has had no effect on about 98% of customers. He also argued that if the model is adopted universally in the future, he believes the same trend would hold true, with very few subscribers needing to pay monthly overage fees for exceeding a capacity threshold."

That would entirely depend on Comcast adjusting its caps to scale with usage demand, though. And since the entire purpose of imposing these caps and meters is to protect TV revenues from Internet video, I have an aching suspicion that won't be happening.
From The Founder
Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Custom TV
Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
LRTV Custom TV
Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Shades of Ray
MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
LRTV Custom TV
Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
LRTV Custom TV
Quad Channel Modulator Driver with 46 Gbaud Capability from MACOM

1|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


MACOM's MAOM-003427 is the industry's first surface-mount modulator driver with 46 Gbaud capability to support next generation 200G and 400G applications.
LRTV Custom TV
Video Infographic: Validating Cisco's NFV Infrastructure

1|26|16   |   02:24   |   (1) comment


We all know that the network of the future will be virtual, but when will virtual become a reality? This video infographic covers the four key areas in which Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, tested Cisco's NFV infrastructure: performance, reliability, multi-service capabilities and single pane of glass management.

For the full report, see

Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Phil McKinney, CableLabs

1|22|16   |   13:36   |   (1) comment


At CES in Las Vegas, we met with Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs. Phil provides an update on the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1, his views on the future of open source and how consumer interest in virtual reality could affect network traffic.
Between the CEOs
Ericsson CTO on the Changing Telecom Market

1|21|16   |   10:26   |   (0) comments


At CES 2015, CTO of Ericsson, Ulf Ewaldsson, sits down with CEO of Light Reading, Steve Saunders, to discuss the changing telecom market, the new partnership with Cisco and the future of the telecom industry.
LRTV Interviews
Ireland's Data Dream

1|21|16   |   14:31   |   (0) comments


Host In Ireland president Gary Connolly tells Light Reading's Steve Saunders about the role Ireland is playing in hosting data for the world's largest organizations.
LRTV Custom TV
Brocade Keynote: Transitioning to the New IP

1|20|16   |   27:23   |   (0) comments


At 2020 Vision in Dublin, Andrew Coward, VP of Service Provider Strategy at Brocade, presents the transition to the New IP.
Infographics
Cisco's latest VNI numbers suggest the world will be using 366.8 exabytes of data on smartphones and Internet of Things devices, up from 44.2 exabytes, in 2015.
Hot Topics
Alphabet Is Serious About Google Fiber
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/1/2016
Did Juniper Pay 'Peanuts' for BTI?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 2/2/2016
Google's 5G Radio Ambitions Are Expanding
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/5/2016
How Data Center Outsourcing Fuels AT&T NetBond Growth
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 2/3/2016
3.5GHz Startup Gets $22M for Small Cells
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/2/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I like to think I know a fair bit about this next-gen-comms malarkey, but there's nothing like an interview with one of the ...
Animals with Phones
Happy Groundhogs for Technology Day! Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.